eDNA environmental accounting method for regional-scale management
EnviroDNA announces an environmental accounting Method using eDNA to support regional-scale land management and facilitate positive environmental outcomes.
Accounting for Nature (AfN), global leaders in measuring the change in environmental condition, commissioned this Method to monitor the condition of aquatic vertebrate fauna over time. It provides land managers an opportunity for environmental accounting across regional scales using a framework backed by rigorous scientific standard.
This is an exciting step for EnviroDNA and AfN to advance eDNA as a tool for measuring the physical state of environments against a reference benchmark, through time.
Importance of environmental accounting
Environmental accounting integrates economic and environmental data to improve the way we understand environmental assets. Demand for such frameworks is increasing as ecosystems continue to face immense pressure, and the need to accurately monitor environmental impact is essential for a sustainable future.
Assets can be an individual species or other features in nature such as agricultural soils, native vegetation, rivers and marine ecosystems. The asset approach to measuring degradation to the environment provides a practical way of understanding the condition of the environment and its relationship to economy, to drive improved management decisions.
AfN are pioneers for environmental accounting that support farmers, indigenous land managers, conservation organisations, businesses, impact investors, governments and resource organisations to implement robust Methods for measuring environmental assets. All AfN Methods are approved by an established Science Accreditation Committee.
New vertebrate assessment
Our team have worked to develop this Method for assessing the condition of aquatic vertebrates by measuring species richness over time, using existing data generated by EnviroDNA and computational modelling.
For six years, we have used eDNA for monitoring of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates. Through our biodiversity datasets, we are seeing the decline of aquatic vertebrates throughout our waterways. EnviroDNA is motivated to create means for assessing environmental change that are simple, affordable, and ultimately scalable.
Used in conjunction with AfN’s Regional Waterway Condition method, users can gain a deeper understanding of the condition of river systems. While this method can provide a broad account of aquatic vertebrate fauna diversity, it can also be used to understand the presence/absence and distribution of iconic species in a region.
EnviroDNA will continue to work with AfN to facilitate application of this method across Australia, and work towards development of additional methods for terrestrial environments.
Econd®, the gold standard
Environmental Asset condition assessments need to be constructed using a common unit, or currency, so that the relative condition of different assets can be compared: in different places, at different scales, at any time, and when using different indicators.
The Accounting for Nature® framework is underpinned by the Econd®, a common unit. Econd® is an index that describes the condition of any environmental asset at any scale, enabling complex scientific information to be summarised into a single number and incorporated into an accounting framework.
The Econd® is an index between 0 and 100, where 100 describes the ‘ideal’ or ‘undisturbed’ reference condition of an environmental asset, and 0 indicates the asset is completely degraded. For our method, the Econd® for native aquatic vertebrate richness is calculated as a weighted average of assessment units based on the best available reference data for ideal conditions.
How to apply this Method
EnviroDNA works with proponents to provide technical expertise for several important steps we regularly undertake with our clients for DNA-based projects including sampling design, processing and data analysis.
Scoping of the project would best be undertaken by users but involve EnviroDNA from the outset. Next stages require expertise in geographic information systems, freshwater ecology and experimental design. Specifically, scientific knowledge of an aquatic ecologist with understanding of the distribution of aquatic species in the environmental account area.
Data collection can be undertaken by users following training by EnviroDNA, and analysis of samples would be processed in our eDNA laboratories in Melbourne, Victoria.
The final stage of this method is the calculation of condition scores and the Econd®, this can be undertaken by proponents (or an AfN Accredited Expert) or EnviroDNA by following the instructions provided in this methodology.
EnviroDNA is proud to have this AfN Method now available. You can visit the Accounting for Nature website here for more information.
Acknowledgements to the method author Dr Luke Noble, EnviroDNA Leader in Molecular Science. If you have any questions or require further information about this Method, contact us for assistance.